Maritime Attorney in Charlotte525 North Tryon Street, Suite 1729
Charlotte, NC 28202
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Charlotte, NC Maritime Lawyers
Experiencing an injury is always stressful but going through that when you are at sea or in a place that is governed by maritime law can make the situation even more difficult. Maritime law is quite complex, and not every lawyer is well-versed in this area of law. It’s incredibly important to find a lawyer who has experience specifically in that area to ensure that you’re able to obtain the justice and compensation you deserve. If a worker is injured on the job in a location that is governed by maritime law, they will be able to pursue benefits by utilizing a process similar to a typical personal injury claim, as there is no workers’ compensation available in these scenarios. If you believe you are entitled to compensation under maritime law, contact an attorney right away. The Charlotte, NC maritime lawyers at Morgan & Morgan are experienced in handling all types of maritime cases and will do whatever it takes to ensure you get what you’re entitled to. Contact us today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
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What is The Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a primary aspect of maritime law that allows certain maritime workers who are injured on the job to pursue a claim for monetary compensation. There is no workers’ compensation for many maritime workers, so this type of claim is utilized instead. To be successful in a claim under The Jones Act, the worker must be considered a seaman and must prove that their employer was negligent. Employers are required to provide workers with a safe place to work, and they must use ordinary care to maintain the vessel that the seaman works on and keep it reasonably safe.
To be eligible to pursue a claim under The Jones Act, it’s also a requirement that the vessel is in navigation at the time of the worker’s injury.
What Is a Vessel?
The Jones Act requires employers to maintain a safe vessel. While this might sound like an easy element to understand, there is sometimes confusion regarding the definition of a vessel. For purposes of the act, a vessel is defined as a watercraft or other artificial device that has the ability to act as transportation on water. To be considered a vessel, it must also be built primarily in the United States. Finally, the vessel must be owned and registered as a United States vessel, and must be able to operate in navigable waters.
Examples of a vessel include cargo ships, cruise ships, passenger ships, mobile offshore drilling platforms, oil platform supply and service ships, docked boats, anchored vessels, and barges, among others. Typically, a vessel has a crew, an area for the crew to sleep, lifeboats or other life-saving equipment, bilge pumps, a raked bow, navigational aids, and must be registered with the Coast Guard or another appropriate authority.
To be successful in a Jones Act claim, you must prove that your employer was negligent. To do this, you must prove the following elements:
- Duty. First, you must prove that the employer owed you a duty of care. You can do this by showing that they employed you and you are considered a seaman. Doing this will almost always satisfy this element, as the employers of seamen have a required duty to maintain a safe vessel and provide a safe place to work.
- Breach. Next, you must show that your employer violated this duty of care. To do this, you would present evidence of their negligence and what they did that made your working conditions unsafe. Examples include unsafe equipment, lack of maintenance to the vessel, and a failure to properly train the crew.
- Injuries/Damages. You will be required to prove that you suffered injuries or harm. There’s no requirement that the injuries be severe or even take you out of work.
- Causation. Finally, you must prove that the employer’s negligence played a part in causing your injuries.
Proving Causation Under the Jones Act
In most personal injury claims, the victim must prove that the defendant’s negligence was the primary cause of their injury. Under The Jones Act, however, the standard is much lower. The worker has to show only that the defendant’s negligence played any part, however small, in their injury. It doesn’t matter if there are several different contributing factors to the incident; if the employer had any part in it, they can be held legally responsible.
Statute of Limitations
To successfully obtain compensation under The Jones Act, you must file your claim within 3 years of the date of your injury. If you fail to file in time, you won’t be able to collect any compensation, regardless of how strong your case would have been otherwise.
Many employers will attempt to use comparative negligence as a defense to a claim under The Jones Act. Comparative negligence law allows the defendant to escape some liability if the court determines that the plaintiff was partially responsible for their own injuries. For example, if it’s determined that the injured worker is 20 percent responsible for the incident, any monetary compensation awarded by the court will be reduced by 20 percent. If $100,000 was awarded, the injured worker would take home 80 percent, or $80,000.
This also benefits the injured worker, as they are not barred from pursuing a claim even if they were partially at fault for the incident.
A successful Jones Act claim will provide similar types of compensation as a typical personal injury claim. The most common types of damages awarded are for medical expenses, lost wages, lost future wages, and pain and suffering. Medical expenses include current and past medical expenses, as well as anticipated future medical expenses, such as diagnostic tests, medication, and rehabilitation. Pain and suffering refers to physical and emotional pain and suffering.
In some cases, punitive damages can be awarded. Punitive damages are awarded as a way to punish the defendant and to deter them and others from engaging in similar behaviors in the future. For punitive damages to be awarded, it must be shown that the employer willfully and recklessly violated their duty to provide a safe workplace.
What Does “In Navigation” Mean According to the Jones Act?
For a vessel to be considered in navigation, or in navigable waters, it must be floating on navigable waters and be capable of movement. This includes rivers, oceans, and inland lakes that are connected to other navigable waters. The vessel does not need to be in motion at the time of the injury for a worker to be eligible for a Jones Act claim; it simply has to be capable of movement. An injury that occurs on a docked vessel is still considered to have taken place on a vessel in navigable waters if the other requirements are met. For example, a casino ship that is constantly docked in the water can still be considered a vessel in navigation.
However, it’s important to understand that a ship that is in a drydock is not considered a vessel under the Jones Act.
Who Is a Seaman Under the Jones Act?
To be eligible to pursue a claim, the worker must meet certain requirements to be considered a seaman. A seaman must be a crew member that provides service to a vessel. The worker must also be engaged in functions that are essential to the vessel’s intended functions. Finally, the seaman must spend at least 30 percent of their time working on that vessel or with the fleet of that employer.
What Is the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
Many people are confused by the difference between The Jones act and The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides financial compensation and other benefits to certain maritime workers. While The Jones Act covers seamen, the LHWCA covers maritime workers that are land-based and who are not eligible to file a Jones Act claim. Workers who qualify for an LHWCA claim engage in work that is related to a vessel in some way, but they are not defined as seamen.
Some workers that don’t work directly with or on the vessels are still eligible under the LHWCA. For example, a worker who drives a truck that transports containers away from ships, and in some cases, even the mechanics who repair those trucks, may be considered maritime workers.
Contact Morgan & Morgan Today
If you are a seaman who was injured at work, or you believe you have a valid claim that is governed by any aspect of maritime law, it’s important to speak with an experienced lawyer right away. Maritime laws are very nuanced, so always ensure that you find a firm with experience handling these types of cases. At Morgan & Morgan, we have been dealing with maritime claims for decades, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Our Charlotte, NC maritime lawyers will answer all your questions and be with you every step of the way. Contact Morgan & Morgan today to schedule a free consultation.